What gave you the idea to make drawings with a typewriter?
Art school, Bristol/Brizzol, 2003, I saw someone typing words in our studios (monkey see monkey do). It reminded me of a charity shop purchase a few years previous, a neat littl orange portable typewriter in a ly for the princely sum of £5. I thought, I must dig that out next time I go to my folks house. But then, faced with the machine all alone in my bedroom I became very self-conscious, all words dried up, nothing to say at all, yet still the desire to type.
So I just typed anyway. Repeatedly hitting the same characters, none that made a word – in fact actively avoiding words – seemed to detach me from their meaning. Suddenly I felt set free on this machine. I began enjoying the distinctive shapes and textures in a new way, how they look sitting next to one another or overlapping, experimenting with harder and softer keystrokes, then finally moving the paper as I tapped I began to draw.
Have I seen you on TV?
Yes, maybe as I’ve appeared on BBC’s the One Show and BBC World News and national news, Also been on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 lunchtime show (much to the annoyance of some listeners!!!) and the time Jeremy Vine hosted BBC Radio 2’s Arts Show.
Why a typewriter?
They’re portable, not relying on any power supply to operate (rare in this day and age!), like a massive, heavy clunking symbol of freedom to me.
I like this machine for the clarity of it’s mechanism – I stand a vague chance of being able to understand, to even fix its minor problems.
It demands my undivided attention (also rare). Quite restrictive in its actions, I somehow enjoy battling against these. Distinctive sound, distinctive font and everyone, from the old to the very young has a connection to this machine, whether they realise or like it or not.
I’m not into the makes and models at all, as long as they work fairly well, and I can fit it in my pannier, rucksack, suitcase or under the buggy when inspiration strikes, I’m ready to type.
Do you sketch it out beforehand?
No. On rare occasions I have/will, for certain portrait commissions, if a very accurate representation is required. But for my personal work I really don’t want to know how an impression will turn out before I start, other than a vague composition.
Do you find it hard to buy ribbons?
Not really, as I use relatively modern machines. Mike at AMJ Stationery supplies me and will supply you if you give him a call!
How many typewriters do you have?
40 on the last count. Though I only use a couple at any time, one for in the studio, one portable for out on locations, and then I keep some of my other secret weapons on standby for those special characters 😉 . The Greek alphabet is my latest palette – I’m totally fascinated by the shapes!
Don’t you get RSI?
Sometimes, if I type for several hours in a day, like the Felstead commission where I typed solidly 8 hours a day for 3.5 days. But what an outcome!
Doesn’t it drive you mad?
I guess that’s a matter of opinion, I’m not one to judge the madness. I’ve always enjoyed the transportative feeling of being in ‘the zone’, whether whilst painting, exploring sounds, listening to music, or drawing repetitive patterns of minute detail with a fine pen. It’s a feeling of no time, no interruptions – complete focus, in a world of ever-increasing distractions.
Can’t you just do the same thing on a computer?
Yes and no, I expect you can build a programme to mimic to draw like I do with the typewriter, then print it onto any surface. But once again it is the restrictive nature of the typewriter that interests me. I don’t want to be able to do anything I want with it (but to try anyway). Typing in public and the reaction/ interest it attracts bridges some kind of communication gap in this modern world where everyone is connected by some kind of electronic device. If I’m honest, it means I can meet more people without introducing myself verbally, so it overcomes my own communication obstacles – being a very sociable person that likes to meet new people regularly – but a slight fear of making that first move in talking with a stranger. These days (of the fear-mongering media) we seem to require a valid excuse, or we are not welcome – so I guess I’m offering an excuse.
Do you mind if people come and talk to you when you’re street-typing?
No, not at all, it’s what inspires me, the exchange of thoughts, the reaction from people whether its the art they’re interested in, or the typewriter, be it a look, or question, or to tell me about the history of where we are standing. I love that by presenting what you do in public, it invites other people to communicate and it seems to be the same for all ages and walks of life. This amuses me partly because I’m using a tool that was designed for communicating in an alternative visual way, yet somehow it paves the way to speak to many.
Do you do commissions?
I’ve worked with many companies as well as private individuals on creating bespoke typewriter art commissions, including for books, album artwork, magazines, beer mats, promotional posters, even straightforward original typics to be hung on a wall! I’ve also been involved in creating time-lapse, promotional film footage, visuals for club nights. I find it really exciting pushing my art in different directions. Just contact me if you want to discuss a new project, I’m all ears.
How much is a commission?
I can make suggestions for any budget, so please contact me if you have an idea. To give a rough ballpark for original commissioned works (depending on detail):
– 10 x 10cm – £95 – £195
– up to A7 – £95 – £250
– up to A6/postcard – £300 – 450
– up to A5/ or 15 x 15cm square – £450 – 750
– up to A4 – £800 – £1200
– up to ‘KR Standard’ size 22 x 52cm – £1500-£2000
– up to ‘KR Standard A3’ 30 x 52cm – £2500-£3000
Longer, or multi-page works are entirely possible. Price excludes travel to location, framing, fee for if image reproduction rights are required.